Dryopteris filix-mas

Male fern

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Key information

Plant type

Hardy perennial


Dramatic foliage



Skill level


photo by Lee Avison, copyright GAP Photos (258361)

Plant details

The male fern has elegant but fairly robust foliage and is able to withstand a sunnier site and drier soil than most hardy ferns, making it more suited to the rough and tumble of border life. Use between shrubs or tall flowers in borders for summer-long foliage interest, or in woodland or wild gardens in clumps under trees in mild locations the foliage may remain standing all winter, but elsewhere it dies down. However it is at its happiest in a cool shady sheltered humus-rich situation in the company of other hardy ferns and herbaceous flowers. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Family: Dryopteridaceae

Genus: Dryopteris

Species: filix-mas

Plant type: Hardy perennial

Foliage colour: Mid-green

Feature: Dramatic foliage

Sun exposure: Partial shade, Shade

Soil: Well-drained/light, Acidic, Chalky/alkaline, Moist

Hardiness: Hardy

Skill level: Beginner

Height: 90cm

Spread: 90cm

Time to divide plants: September to May

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